• By: OLM Staff

Ottawa Senators Monthly Report: January

Entering their toughest stretch of the NHL season, the Ottawa Senators sat on the fringe of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Their performance in early January against each of the conference’s top teams would go a long way in determining the club’s final record and position inside or out of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Conventional wisdom held that the Senators would be unable to keep pace against the league’s best clubs; hell, they were hardly supposed to challenge for the playoffs, much less hold a spot as the midpoint of the season passed.

In January, the Ottawa Senators continued to prove the doubters wrong, earning seven of 10 points against the Eastern Conference’s top four teams and securing sole position of second place in the Northeast Division. With a considerably lighter schedule ahead, the Sens are at the head of a cluster of teams jockeying for the last three playoff spots in the East, a race that will come down to the season’s final days. For now, we take a look back at the month of January in Hockey Country.

Record: 8-5-1. (Currently 27-20-6. 2nd in Northeast Division. 6th in Eastern Conference. T-10th in NHL.)

Leading Scorers: (January) – (Total)

Erik Karlsson (14 GP: 3 G, 10 A, 13 PTS) – (52: 8-40-48)
Jason Spezza (14 GP: 7 G, 5 A, 12 PTS) – (53: 20-30-50)
Daniel Alfredsson (14 GP: 6 G, 6 A, 12 PTS) – (46: 17-21-38)
Kyle Turris (14 GP: 5 G, 5 A, 10 PTS) – (20: 5-9-14)
Colin Greening (14 GP: 4 G, 5 A, 9 PTS) – (53: 12-15-27)

Game-by-Game Recap

The Senators opened the month of January by surrendering two first-period goals to the New Jersey Devils on January 2nd, before storming back to claim a 3-2 overtime victory (their third win after regulation in as many games). A well-earned 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lighting would follow, before Ottawa secured three of four points in a home-and-home series with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Senators would continue their toughest four-game stretch of the season with decisive wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers, by scores of 5-1 and 3-0, respectively.

After a 3-2 shootout win over Montreal, Ottawa failed to earn a point for the first time in January, getting blanked 2-0 by the Winnipeg Jets. They would rebound the next night, erasing a two-goal deficit to top the hated Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2. Two nights later, they would embark on a Pacific road trip, throttling the San Jose Sharks 4-1 and dropping a 2-1 decision to the Anaheim Ducks.

The final weekend of January saw the hockey world arrive in Ottawa for the 59th NHL All-Star Game. While Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, Milan Michalek and Colin Greening all participated in the festivities, their Senators teammates finally had a reprieve from a schedule that had them play the most games in the NHL over the first part of the season. After the All-Star break, Ottawa concluded the month in Boston, where they pushed the favoured Bruins to the brink before falling 4-3.

Player of the Month

For all the flak he took in the early parts of the season, Craig Anderson was terrific for most of January, starting all 14 games and surrendering just 31 goals in total. A dismal 1-5 start to the season has hounded Anderson’s statistics for much of the year; since then, he has hovered around the level of play that saw him capture the heart (and pocketbook) of general manager Bryan Murray last year in Ottawa. Anderson sits fourth in the league with 25 wins, gradually rounding into form along with the rest of the Senators’ defensive corps. In January, he dominated, allowing Ottawa to capture 17 of a possible 20 points before their ill-fated Western road trip.

Anderson’s best stretch came from January 10th to the 21st, during which time he allowed no more than two goals in seven straight games, adding his first shutout of the season for good measure. While Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson provided the bulk of the scoring, Anderson stole several points for the Senators through his solid play, earning the NHL’s First Star for the week of January 10th to 16th. With backup Alex Auld seemingly tethered to the bench, Anderson will have to maintain his stellar play for Ottawa to remain in playoff position.

Goal of the Month

There are two viable candidates to receive this honour, both of which occurred on January 10th against Pittsburgh, within seven minutes of one another. Already sporting a 1-0 lead near the end of the first period, Nick Foligno corralled the puck in his own zone and burst into the Pittsburgh end. After gliding past Tyler Kennedy and turning Ben Lovejoy inside out with a gorgeous dangle, Foligno threaded a slick pass across the ice to Bobby Butler, who roofed a shot past sprawling goaltender Brent Johnson.

Not to be outdone, Jason Spezza would provide an even greater highlight just a minute into the second frame. Scooping up a loose puck at the Pittsburgh blue line, Spezza stepped around a falling Zbynek Michalek and drew Johnson well out of the crease. Faking a slapshot, Spezza walked around Johnson, cut behind the goal line, reached back and tucked the puck into the net while being tripped by the Penguins netminder.

Game of the Month

Despite their precipitous rise in the standings over the first half of the month, the Senators didn’t submit a performance that could realistically be characterized as dominant. Their best stretch came from January 8th to 12th, during which they staged a stirring third-period comeback against Philadelphia and ran away from a Pittsburgh squad sans Sidney Crosby. Ottawa’s most impressive game of the month came two days later, in a commanding 3-0 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers.

Craig Anderson was stellar, stopping all 34 shots he faced for his first shutout of the season. While Jason Spezza opened the scoring midway through the second period, the decision wouldn’t be finalized until late in the third, when Milan Michalek added an insurance marker. Spezza would score his second of the game on the power play, handing the Rangers a demoralizing defeat on home ice. While wins over division rivals Toronto and Montreal may have been equally satisfying, Ottawa’s performance against New York set the tone for a successful month of January.

Looking Ahead

After playing a combined 29 games in December and January, the Senators’ schedule will lighten considerably in February, with eight of their 12 contests to be played at Scotiabank Place. They open the month with a five-game homestand, with games against the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers. Ottawa will travel to the state of Florida on February 14th and 15th, facing the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers on consecutive nights.

After a five-day break, the Senators travel to Long Island for a matinee matchup against the Islanders, before returning home for games against the Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins and (once again) the Islanders. They will close the month the exact same way as January – with a trip to Boston to face the Stanley Cup champion Bruins.

All-Star Game Recap

The 59th NHL All-Star Game was, undoubtedly, a rousing success for the Senators organization and the city of Ottawa. Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Milan Michalek were voted in as four of the six starters (with Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf and Boston’s Tim Thomas rounding out the fan balloting). Colin Greening participated in the Skills Competition along with 11 other rookies, while Alfredsson was named as one of the captains (opposing former Senator Zdeno Chara).

After the Thursday Fantasy Draft saw Alfredsson stockpile his teammates and a collection of hockey’s best Swedes, he quickly went to work in topping Team Chara in Saturday’s Skills Competition. Alfredsson and Spezza performed admirably in the Hardest Shot competition (though Chara blew the competition away with a record 108.8 mph blast), while Karlsson shone in the Fastest Skater event. Steven Stamkos’ victory in the Elimination Shootout secured a 21-12 victory for Team Alfredsson on home ice.

Although Chara would get his revenge on Sunday, earning a 12-9 win in the All-Star Game, the day belonged to the hometown captain. Alfredsson received a standing ovation after scoring the first of his two goals, punctuating an entire weekend devoted to celebrating the denouement of his illustrious career. Marian Gaborik would receive the game’s MVP on the strength of a hat trick, but these four days at the end of January will be remembered for so much more. He may never hoist the Stanley Cup, but Daniel Alfredsson will always be beloved in our nation’s capital. Last weekend, he shone, and the city shone right along with him.